2022 hasn’t provided as many points to NFL fans as they’ve been used to in recent years.
Through seven weeks, the league is averaging 43.4 total points scored per game, the lowest since 2010. Yahoo! Sports attempted to get to the root cause of the drop in their column. They identified two items as potential causes: lack of preseason participation, and the decreased completion percentage of deep throws leading to fewer big-play touchdowns. They theorize that decline is caused by an increase in Cover 2, 4, and 6 coverages, all middle-of-field open concepts designed to help limit big plays in the passing game.
The Buffalo Bills, however, scored an average of 29.8 points per game in 2021, and thus far in 2022, are scoring 29.3 points per game. Whatever the causes of the league-wide scoring erosion, they don’t seem to be affecting Buffalo.
Let’s examine those two items specifically outlined by Yahoo! Sports as they relate to the Bills thus far in 2022.
The Bills didn’t play their starters in the first or third preseason game this year, electing instead to have them play in the second game against the Denver Broncos. Josh Allen played six plays in one series—throwing a touchdown pass—before spending the remainder of the contest cheering on Case Keenum from the bench. If lack of preseason involvement is a root cause for the league’s decrease in scoring, it hasn’t applied to the Bills despite very limited participation from their own starters.
In Week 1 against Buffalo, the Los Angeles Rams played man coverage on 10.5% of their snaps, per Pro Football Focus, tied for their lowest mark all year. In Week 2, the Tennessee Titans played man coverage against the Bills on 33.3% of their snaps and got torched to the tune of 41 points—and an early Keenum appearance. In Week 3, the Miami Dolphins put the second-lowest man coverage snap percentage of their year on the books against Buffalo with 42.5%. The Baltimore Ravens were middle of the road in man coverage snap percentage against the Bills in Week 4 with 32.6%, but per ESPN, they played Cover 2 zone on 45% of Allen’s pass attempts in the first half. On those plays, Allen averaged 3.0 yards per pass. The Pittsburgh Steelers split it right down the middle in man versus zone snaps in Week 5 with an even 50/50, again right in the middle of their normal season average. And in Week 6, the Kansas City Chiefs broke the mold, with their highest percentage of man coverage snaps of the season against Buffalo (37%).
The first factor identified by Yahoo! Sports as a potential contributing factor (preseason activity) doesn’t seem to be affecting the Bills at all, and the second point (teams playing more zone to limit big plays) doesn’t seem on the surface to be something that applies to the team thus far in the season, either. Teams overall aren’t going out of their way to play more zone against Buffalo than they usually do. But given some of the Ravens’ early success in Week 4 against the Bills using Cover 2, it makes you wonder if Buffalo’s offense may see more of it coming out of their bye week. It doesn’t appear likely that you can stop the explosive Bills offense for a full game, but every little bit helps as a defensive coordinator going against Ken Dorsey, Allen, and Stefon Diggs.
Let’s keep an eye out.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!